Elista R2: Kramnik wins, takes 2-0 lead

9/25/2006 – The second game between Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik was one of the most exciting games anyone has seen in years, with both players going at each other without compromise. 8000+ visitors were on the server to see the drama unfold, accompanied by live audio commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan. Full annotated report.

Veselin Topalov vs Vladimir Kramnik

Twelve games, played from September 23 to October 12 in Elista, Kalmikia. The games start at 15:00h (3:00 p.m.) local Elista time, which translates to 11:00h GMT, 13:00h CEST, 12:00h London, 7 a.m. New York.

Live coverage is available on the official FIDE site and on Playchess.com (with live audio commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan for ten Ducats per day). You can buy them in the ChessBase Shop.

Game two – Sunday, Sept. 24

Day two of the World Championship in Elista. After his loss in game one Veselin Topalov would, many speculated, come back fighting. Others thought he would play a solid, "safe" position, prudently going for a draw to calm things down.


Topalov watching Kramnik play 3...Nf6 in game two...


and pondering 7...Bb4 (what should I do? – he castlled)

The first group was right – boy were they right. Topalov pulled out his Bulgarian chainsaw and went after Kramnik's king. With everything he had. Kramnik did his iceman thing, remaining cool, taking the pawn Topalov sacrificed on move 23, and sitting down to weather one of the scariest attacks seen in recent top-level chess. On move 31 the ice suddenly melted and Kramnik committed a disastrous blunder. But Topalov did not spot the instant win and continued with his not completely convincing attack. Slowly Kramnik increased his counterchances, and traded down to an advantageous endgame. There Topalov missed a forced draw, which only John Nunn and computer tablebases can see (in all fairness: Garry Kasparov in Moscow immediately said "55.Kd7?" when we mentioned Topalov's drawing chance), and Kramnik ground out a second win in two games. Details are to be found in GM Mihail Marin's commentary below.


What is going on? Aren't I supposed to be leading??

Action on Playchess

On the Playchess server the evening was simply overwhelming – for the thousands of spectators, for the commentator GM Yasser Seirawan, and for the computers trying to manage the load of over eight thousand visitors logged in at the same time. Again the record was broken: 8180 simultaneous visitors at peak, at the end of the game (19,387 during the entire period).


Grandmasters galore: world class players kept coming in throughout the match. Most have anonymous handles, but can be recognised by the king symbol or their personal data cards. The distance given is from the visitor's current location.


Yasser Seirawan explaining the game with variations, arrows and audio commentary

Towards the end of the game our live audio commentator GM Yasser Seirawan was close to collapse. "I am completely exhausted and drained," he said. "I cannot take much more excitement and shock. One shudders to think how the players are feeling!" Many spectators, their chess engines fired up, felt they were close to cardiac arrest, as the game took one dramatic turn after another. It was an evening to remember.

For those of you who were and are unable to catch these spectacular live shows with Yasser Seirawan there is another possibility: log on to the Playchess.com server, go to the Chess Media System rooms and click on World Championship 2006. There you will find all the broadcasts, available for instant replay. Viewing each segment will cost you two Ducats, which translates to 20 Euro cents.

How do I get Ducats?

The most common question on Playchess chat is no longer "Who is Raffael?" It is by people who are watching the World Championship games in the broadcast room and want to tune in to GM Yasser Seirawan's audio commentary, which costs ten Ducats for the entire duration of the game. They know that they are just a click away from this extraordinary experience, but have no Ducats on their accounts.

So how does a newbee user come by Ducats? They can play in tournaments and win the currency, or they can win it from other players in ducat wager games. One can even, well, beg. At least one visitor got his audio broadcast fee from the broadcaster Seirawan himself. But it is simpler to simply purchase a stock of ducats.

The best way to get Ducats is to log onto the Playchess server and use "Edit – Payments – Fill up account". This takes you to a browser page where you can complete the transaction in a couple of minutes.

If you are at your workplace and cannot use Playchess you can reach the Ducat page directly in the ChessBase Shop here. After you have submitted your payment details you should find your Playchess account credited with the ducats in about one day (use the "View account" option in the menu above to check). In view of the current World Championship demand we have set up one person in the ChessBase office to make sure that ducat purchases are given the highest priority and dealt with immediately.

Here's a full description of the Ducat system on Playchess.com.


Commentary on Game Two

The following express commentary was provided to us by Romanian GM Mihail Marin, who is the author of a number of very popular ChessBase training CDs and articles for ChessBase Magazine. GM Marin will study the game from the World Championship in Elista in greater detail and provide the results of his analysis in the next issue of ChessBase Magazine. Note that there is a replay link at the end of the game. Clicking this will produce a (separate) JavaScript replay window, where you have replay buttons but can also click on the notation to follow the moves.

Topalov,V (2813) - Kramnik,V (2743)
WCh Elista RUS (2), 24.09.2006 [Mihail Marin]

Another highly dramatical game. Topalov built up an iresistible king side attack but then missed a simple win and started playing less confidently. Kramnik's main merit consists of finding ways to face his opponent with difficult psychological problems. The score is 2-0 now for Kramnik, but given the elevated tension of the fight this could be of little relevance from the point of view of the final result. 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.e3 e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.0-0 Nbd7 9.Qe2 Bg6 10.e4 0-0 11.Bd3 Bh5 12.e5 Nd5 13.Nxd5 cxd5 14.Qe3 This can be considered a classical line already. Black has a solid position, but White's advantage of space offers him chances for a king side attack, be it of strategic or tactical nature. Recently, Black's earlier deviations such as 9...Bg4, 9...Ne4 and 11...h6 have become increasingly popular. Actually, 9...Ne4 can hardly be called a new move; it has just been well forgotten for a long while, but it was employed during the Alekhine-Euwe matches. Kramnik himself faced 9...Bg4 against Bacrot in the Olympiad and failed to prove a convincing antidote.

14...Bg6 15.Ng5 Re8 16.f4 Bxd3 17.Qxd3 f5 Starting with this moment, I expected that Topalov would sacrifice the knight on e6 in a way or another, but his plan looks more logical. By gradually concentrating all his forces on the king side, he will create very dangerous threats.

18.Be3 Nf8 19.Kh1 Rc8 20.g4 Qd7 21.Rg1 Be7 22.Nf3 My shattered ilusions about a possible Nxe6 were compensated by the spectacular sequence starting with the 28th move. 22...Rc4 23.Rg2 fxg4 24.Rxg4 Rxa4 25.Rag1 g6 26.h4 Without calculating too much, is it easy to unerstand that Black's position cannot resist for too long. 26...Rb4 27.h5 Qb5.

28.Qc2!! The only way to keep the attack going. 28.hxg6? was premature because after 28...Qxd3 29.gxh7+ Kxh7 30.Rg7+ Kh6 31.f5+ the bishop is hanging. 28...Rxb2 29.hxg6! But now, the previous variation leads to mate, so Black has to keep the g-file closed, at least for a while. 29...h5 30.g7! hxg4 31.gxf8Q+

31...Bxf8? Both players started missing things by this moment. This is easy to spot when assisted by Fritz, but in conditions of over-the-board play things are different. About the yesterday's game it has been said that 57...f5 was a terrible blunder and that 57...Nxf2 would have drawn easily. I do not feel that this is really so obvious without an engine by one's side. Anyway, I suppose that Kramnik considered the line 31...Kxf8 32.Qg6 Qe2 33.Qxg4 as completely hopeless for him, which may be true in principle, but Black could prolongue the fight with 33...Bg5!? when White has to insert 34.Re1 before he captures the bishop. The move played in the game should have led to an abrupt end.

32.Qg6+? Both players must have had their eyes focused on the king side, which made them overlook that after 32.Rxg4+ Bg7 White can attack the g7-bishop from the other side with 33.Qc7 preventing ...Re7 (which could follow after 33.Qg6) and leaving Black with the possibility of giving just one last check with 33...Qf1+ when 34.Ng1 ends the day. Although Topalov's move does not let the win slip away yet, it surely marks the start of his gradual decline, after a brilliantly conducted first part of the game. This seems to be a hidden weakness of the FIDE World Champion. Sometimes, if the opponent gets some symbolic counterplay in a basically lost position, Topalov starts becoming less confident. (To a certain extent, this was also typical for Fischer, with whom Topalov has been frequently been compared for his uncompromising style). In Topalov-Leko Linares 2005 and Topalov-Anand San Luis 2005 he just missed relatively simple wins but in Aronian-Topalov Morelia 2006 he even came close to losing at a certain moment. This game continues this unfortunate tendency: he will eventually lose the full point... 32...Bg7 33.f5 Re7 34.f6 Qe2 35.Qxg4 Rf7.

36.Rc1. Computers suggest 36.Qh5 as stronger and they might be just right, but this is pretty hard to spot during the game by a mere mortal, be him a World Champion. Topalov's choice is perfectly understandable, humanly speaking. 36...Rc2 37.Rxc2 Qd1+ 38.Kg2 Qxc2+ 39.Kg3 Qe4 A culminating moment. Black desperately tries to simplify the position, even if this would imply making some positional or material concessions on the king side since his apparently inoffensive queen side pawns will be a terrible weapon in the ending. White faces now a very difficult choice right before the control.

40.Bf4. It will require a lot of analytical effort to prove which exactly is the move that turns a better (or winning) position into a worse (or losing) one, but I feel we are quite close to it by now. (please do read CBM 115 for further details). 40.Qxe4 dxe4 41.Ng5 would have lead to relatively similar positions as in the game, with the difference that White could put his pawns into motion more quickly. For instance 41...Bf8 (White should win after 41...Bxf6 42.Nxf7 Kxf7 43.exf6 Kxf6 44.Kf4 although some elementary technique is still needed.) 42.Nxe6 a5 43.Ng5 Bh6 (The pawn race favours White after 43...a4 44.Nxf7 Kxf7 45.d5 a3 46.Bd4 followed by e6+) 44.d5 when the white pawns look pretty awesome. 40...Qf5 41.Qxf5 exf5 42.Bg5. Topalov likes to do things in systematic way, approach with the king, maintain the chain of pawns intact, and so on, but there is simply not enough time for it! There are two enemy passed pawns on the other wing! Capturing the bishop or 42.Ng5 would have been better.

42...a5 43.Kf4 a4 44.Kxf5 a3 45.Bc1 Bf8 46.e6 Rc7 47.Bxa3 Bxa3 48.Ke5 Rc1 49.Ng5 Rf1. Allowing the transposition to a problematic ending. 49...Rg1!? would have probably been simpler. 50.e7 Re1+ 51.Kxd5 Bxe7 52.fxe7 Rxe7 53.Kd6.

Humanly speaking, this position should be a draw. White's forces are perfectly coordinated and the elimination of the b-pawn should not be a problem. Tablebases seem to have a different opinion.53...Re1 It will take me some time to understand why 53...Re3, as noted by John Nunn, is here the only winning move. 54.d5 Kf8 55.Ne6+. But now, 55.Kd7 looks better for human standards and it is the only saving move according to Nunn and the tablebases, too. So, humans and computers can have common views sometimes. 55...Ke8 56.Nc7+ Kd8 57.Ne6+ Kc8. It's all over now. 58.Ke7 Rh1 59.Ng5 b5 60.d6 Rd1 61.Ne6 b4 62.Nc5 Re1+ 63.Kf6 Re3 0-1. [Click to replay]

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